Monday, October 26, 2009

The Joys of Catholic Paradoxes

I have been so busy lately I have not been able to keep up with this blog, but I have for some time wanted to post about the paradoxes, the enigmas, seeming contradictions I have found within Catholicism and plan yet on doing that. But yesterday, I was again reminded of this when I was walking into St. James Cathedral in Seattle.

There are many homeless people in Seattle and they hang around the cathedral because there they find shelter and food. As we were walking into mass yesterday morning a man, obviously a mentally ill vagrant, was walking in with us. Besides the bags of his earthly wealth carried under his arm, he was wearing jeans with a woman's dress over them. His face was caked with women's makeup, his eyes smeared with eyeliner making him look somewhat like a raccoon.

I was going to mass with a mentally ill, cross dressing, homeless man. Something I had never been exposed to in other churches. He sat down on a wooden chair, and the magnificent organ began the prelude. The choir began its glorious praise to God and I felt so wonderfully small and insignificant amongst the beauty of the sound and the high ceilings full of stained-glass windows and golden pillars.

In the Catholic Cathedral we are reminded that beauty draws us to worship the creator of beauty. We are brought into a building of unparalleled breathtaking magnificence in Washington State. The sounds bouncing off the ceilings so high I have to put on my glasses to see any details way up there. I find a God there who wants to bring us into the opulent, lavish grace of His presence. It is a taste of heaven.

And there also I find the darkest depths of sadness in the eyes of the lonely comic looking man. In one moment heaven and hell stand in the same room. I am reminded by this paradox, this strange scene that in Catholicism we are living in the Kingdom of God and also, not yet.......

Monday, October 12, 2009

Now, About my Mom...

The last post was about my dad, so this one will be about my mother.

We were talking yesterday and she, being a Seventh-day Adventists, decided that it was terrible that the family was being torn apart by different beliefs. So I was amused at her solution:

We all start a new church and call it Cathadventism or Cathventism.....
We would take the doctrines we like out of Adventism and Catholicism and put them together and build a little chapel on their land and we can all worship together. Problem solved, unity achieved. I laughed, only she was serious. She compromised greatly by saying that we could ditch the SDA prophetess Ellen White as long as we attend services on Saturday. The Saturday Sabbath is something she could never give up for anything or anyone. She's okay with Mary, Penance, Confession... so we could include those things.

When I realized that she was being serious, I didn't know what to say. She was, after all, being very sweet and wanting unity between us!

There is truly a great difference in Catholicism and Protestantism. Protestants believe that if you don't agree with others about your beliefs, just start a new denomination! Make everyone happy about what they believe no matter what truth is.

If there is anyone out there who would advise me on what to say to my mother about this, she has an attention span (with religious topics) of about 90 seconds.... I would be so grateful. I am still a baby Catholic and sometimes I feel like I don't really know enough to give authentically "Catholic" answers!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Catholicism, Adventism and the Great Gulf of Thought

My father just visited me from across the country. He is a Seventh-day Adventist. Our visit was wonderful because he is wonderful. He taught me about God's mercy and grace as a child. He was a very good example of a loving God and if God is anything resembling my father, we have very little to worry about as far as justice and mercy.

As an Adventist, though, I wonder how difficult his visit was with us. Adventists have a very anti-Catholic set of prophecies including one that has Catholics leading a civic witch-hunt against them in the last days. We, especially we who have left Adventism, will persecute them with ever more degrees of severity beginning with the dreaded Sunday law. We will insist that they worship on Sunday instead of Saturday "Sabbath." Then we will ratchet up the persecution until, in the very end, many will be martyred at our hands. I grew up hearing this scary stuff in Adventist churches and schools--including their universities.

Most people outside Adventism don't understand that I wasn't raised in a particularly strange sect within Adventism, because they don't see this side of the doctrines with their Adventist colleagues and friends. But it is there, under the surface. Their prophetess, Ellen White, predicted these events with visions that have been recorded in her book entitled, The Great Controversy.

What part of these prophecies were lurking in my dad's subconscious as we took him all around Seattle, to our magnificent St. James Cathedral and Pike's Place Market and Mount Rainier? I do know that he is concerned about us spiritually. It was all over some of his comments, like the worried, "Just promise you won't give up spiritually searching...." He even laughingly joked that one of his best friends think we are crazy for becoming Catholic. But his was a nervous laugh.

It pains me deeply to know there is such a gulf in our beliefs and yet we worship the same God. How is it possible that prejudices within the Body of Christ can leave people so paranoid of each other? I wanted to spend some time defending my faith, yet I know that there are no words that can pierce through the cloud of so deeply ingrained misunderstanding. So I prayed and I leave it up to God as to when is the right time, if ever, for a discussion. I am hoping that love will bridge the gap when words fail. Love, perhaps, will reach into places where prejudices have a stronghold and soften their nasty grip.